Mysticism, romance, turbulence, rivalry, passion - a gripping historical novel. It is a shock to discover such a great author that I've been missing out on! What a great writer Philippa Gregory is.
The Favoured Child is a sequel to a book called Wideacre, but can equally as well be read on its own. I was over halfway through the book before I realised that I was reading the second book in a series. The story is set in late-eighteenth-century England, on a run-down landed estate on the South Downs, called Wideacre. The estate suffers from a legacy left by the previous Lacey landowner, Beatrice, who perished along with her beloved Wideacre Hall in a suspicious fire a few years previously. The estate is now bankrupt, the village poverty stricken, resentments are felt throughout the estate and this is the inheritance of the next two Lacey heirs, cousins Julia and Richard. The cousins have been growing up together under the protection of Julia's mother and family, in the shadow of the blackened ruins of the Hall, and with little money and just each other for company - friends, rivals and secretly betrothed since childhood, their relationship is a tempestuous one. Although they are to inherit jointly, there is an old saying in the village that only one can be the favoured child, only one of them can have the mystical relationship with the land traditionally passed down to each generation, a connection with the land that can bring fertility and prosperity back to the Wideacre estate; in truth only one of them can be the true Lacey heir.
I picked up this novel on a whim and am so glad I did. I used to read quite a lot of historical fiction and then gave them up when I found the plots were becoming quite thin and reedy, or too similar to each other. But now I've discovered Philippa Gregory I shall definitely be reading some more of her novels. There is nothing predictable about The Favoured Child. The historical background is superb (without being overly detailed) - the history does not intrude on the novel, it just adds to its richness and sense of drama. I'm looking forward to reading the final book of the trilogy, Meridon.